« PreviousContinue »
Butler and Brant march toward Cherry Valley. Colonel Alden warned. - - capture of American Scouts
settlements in Tryon county. It was late in the season, but he thirsted for revenge because of his imprisonment, and departed eastward early in October. While on his way, and near Genesee, he met Brant, with his warriors, going from his camp upon the Susquehanna to his winter-quarters at Niagara. Brant felt a deep personal hatred toward young Butler, and this feeling was greatly increased on finding himself made subordinate to the latter. But the difficulty, which threatened, at first, to be serious, was soon adjusted. Thayendanegea had thought much of the insulting letter of Captain MoRean, and more willingly turned his face back toward the settlements. The united forces amounted to about seven hundred men. This movement was known to Mr. Dean, an Indian interpreter in the Oneida country, early in October, and he communicated the information to Major Cochran, then in command at Fort Schuyler. That officer sent a messenger with the intelligence to Colonel Alden, at Cherry Valley, and also to the garrisons of the Schoharie forts; but the presence of the Pennsylvania troops and riflemen had lulled the people into fancied security, and the report of the oncoming invasion was treated as an idle Indian tale. Cherry Valley, the wealthiest and most important settlement near the head waters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna, was the enemy's chosen point of attack. Colonel Ichabod Alden, of Massachusetts, was in command of the fort there, with about two hundred and fifty Continental troops." On the 8th of November the commandant received a dispatch from Fort Schuyler, informing him that his post was about to be attacked by a large force of Indians and Tories, then assembled upon the Tioga River. Colonel Alden treated the information with unconcern, but the inhabitants were greatly alarmed. They asked permission to move into the fort or to deposite their most valuable articles there, but the colonel, regarding the alarm as really groundless, refused his consent. He assured them, at the same time, that he would be vigilant in keeping scouts upon the look-out and the garrison in preparation, and, accordingly, on the 9th parties were sent out in various directions. One of these, which went down toward the Susquehanna, built a fire at their encampment, fell asleep, and awoke prisoners in the hands of Butler and Brant. All necessary information concerning the settlement was extorted from them, and the next day the enemy moved forward and encamped upon a lofty hill covered with evergreens, about a mile southwest of the village, and overlooking the whole settlement. From that observatory they could see almost every house in the village; and from the prisoners they learned that the officers were quartered out of the fort, and that Colonel Alden and Lieutenant-colonel Stacia were at the house of Robert Wells, recently judge of the county, and formerly an intimate friend of Sir William Johnson and Colonel John Butler. November 10, Early in the morning the enemy marched slowly toward the village. Snow 1778. had fallen during the night, and the morning was dark and misty. When near the village, the Tories halted to examine their muskets, for the dampness had injured their powder. The Indians, and particularly the ferocious Senecas, eager for blood and plunder, pushed forward in the van during the halt. A settler, on horseback, going toward the vil. lage, was shot, but, being slightly wounded, escaped and gave the alarm. Colonel Alden could not yet believe that the enemy was near in force, but he was soon convinced by the sound of the war-whoop that broke upon the settlement, and the girdle of fierce savages, with gleaming hatchets, that surrounded the house of Mr. Wells. They rushed in and mur. dered the whole family.” Colonel Alden escaped from a window, but was pursued, toma. hawked, and scalped.
* While Brant was collecting his troops at Oghkwaga the previous year, the strong stone mansion of Colonel Samuel Campbell, at Cherry Valley, was fortified, to be used as a place of retreat for the women and children in the event of an attack. An embankment of earth and logs was thrown up around it, and included two barns. Small block-houses were erected within the inclosure. This was the only fort at Cherry Valley at the time in question.
* The family of Mr. Wells consisted of himself and wife, mother, brother and sister (John and Jane), and a daughter. His son John (the late eminent counselor of New York) was then at school in Schenectady, and was the only survivor of the family. They had all been living at Schenectady for some months, for security, but the alarm in the region of Cherry Walley having subsided, they had just returned. The de
Mr. Dunlap. Mr. Mitchell. Destruction of the Settlement. Treatment of Prisoners. Butler's Savageism and Brant's Humanity.
The house of the venerable minister, Mr. Dunlap (whose wife was the mother of Mrs. Wells), and that of a Mr. Mitchell, were next attacked, and most of the inmates murdered." Mr. Dunlap and his daughter at home were protected by Little Aaron, a Mohawk chief, who led him to his door and there stood by his side, and preserved his life and property. But the good old man sank under the terrible calamity of that day, and joined his lost ones in the spirit land within a year thereafter. Many other families of less note were cut off. Thirty-two of the inhabitants, mostly women and children, and sixteen soldiers of the garrison, were killed. The whole settlement was plundered after the massacre had ceased, and every building in the village was fired when the enemy left with their prisoners and booty. Among the prisoners were the wife and children of Colonel Campbell, who was absent at the time. He returned to find his property laid waste and his family carried into captivity.
The prisoners, numbering nearly forty, were marched down the valley that night in a storm of sleet, and were huddled together promiscuously, some of them half naked, with no shelter but the leafless trees, or resting-place but the wet ground. The marauders, finding the women and children cumbersome, sent them all back the next day, except Mrs. Campbell, her aged mother,” and her children, and a Mrs. Moore, who were kept as hostages for the kind treatment and ultimate exchange of the family of Colonel John Butler. The returning prisoners carried back with them a letter from Walter Butler to General Schuyler, in which he pretended that feelings of mercy for the almost naked and helpless captives were the incentive that caused him to release them ; disclaimed all desire to injure the weak and defenseless; and closed by assuring him that, if Colonel John Butler's family were longer detained, he would not restrain the Indians from indulgence in murder and rapine. The “tender mercy” of Butler was that of “the wicked.” He was the head and front of all the cruelty at Cherry Valley on that day. He commanded the expedition, and while he saw, unmoved, the murder of his father's friend and family, and of others whose age and sex should have secured his regard, his savage ally, the “monster Brant,” hastened to save that very family, but was too late.” Butler would not allow his Rangers even to warn their friends
struction of the Wells family was marked by circumstances of peculiar ferocity, and I mention them to exhibit the infernal character which the passions of men assume when influenced by the horrid teachings in the school of war. One of the Tories boasted that he cleft open the head of Mr. Wells while on his knees in prayer. His sister Jane was distinguished for her beauty, virtues, and accomplishments. When the enemy burst into the house, she fled to a pile of wood and endeavored to conceal herself. An Indian pursued and caught her. He then wiped his knife, dripping with the blood of her relatives, sheathed it, and deliberately took his tomahawk from his girdle. At that moment a Tory, who had been a domestic in the family of Mr. Wells, relented, and, springing forward, claimed her as his sister. The savage thrust him aside and buried his hatchet in her temple. It is said that Colonel John Butler, professedly grieved at the conduct of his son at Cherry Valley, remarked, on one occasion, “I would have gone miles on my knees to save that family, and why my son did not do it, God only knows.” * Mr. Mitchell was in the field when the invasion took place, and found safety in the woods. After the enemy had retired, he hastened to the village, when he sound his house on fire and the dead bodies of his wife and three children lying within. He extinguished the flames, and discovered his little daughter terribly mangled, but yet alive. He took her to the door, hoping fresh air might revive her, when he discovered a straggling party of the enemy near. He had just time to conceal himself, when a Tory sergeant named Newberry, whose acts in Schoharie entitle him to a seat in the councils of Pandemonium, approached, and, seeing the poor child lying upon the door-stone, dispatched her with a blow of a hatchet. This miscreant was afterward caught and hung by order of General Clinton. * Mrs. Cannon, the mother of Mrs. Campbell, was quite old. She was an encumbrance, and a savage slew her with his tomahawk, by the side of her daughter, who, with a babe eighteen months old in her arms, was driven with inhuman haste before her captors, while, with uplifted hatchets, they menaced her life. Arriving among the Senecas, she was kindly treated, and installed a member of one of the families. They allowed her to do as she pleased, and her deportment was such that she seemed to engage the real affections of the people. Perceiving that she wore caps, one was presented to her, considerably spotted with blood. On examination, she recognized it as one that had belonged to her friend, Jane Wells. She and her children (from whom she was separated in the Indian country) were afterward exchanged for the wife and family of Colonel John Butler, then in the custody of the Committee of Safety at Albany. * There are many well-authenticated instances on record of the humanity of Brant, exercised particular. ly toward women and children. He was a magnanimous victor, and never took the life of a former friend or acquaintance. He loved a hero because of his heroism, although he might be his enemy, and he was
Character of Walter Butler. The Settlements menaced. Expedition against the Onondagas. Destruction of their Towns.
in the settlement of the approaching danger, but friend and foe were left exposed to the terrible storm; he had sworn vengeance, and his bad heart would not be content until its cravings were satisfied. Tender charity may seek to cloak *222222*2732 Cézzo his crimes with the plea that o on: justified SIGNATURE of WALTER BUTLER. his deeds; and lapse of time, which mellows such crimson tints in the picture of a man's character, may temper the asperity with which shocked humanity views his conduct; yet a just judgment, founded upon observation of his brief career, must pronounce it a stain upon the generation in which he lived. After the destruction of Cherry Valley his course was short, but bold, cruel, and bloody. British officers of respectability viewed him with horror and disgust; and when, in 1781, he was slain by the Oneidas on the banks of the West Canada Creek, his body was left to decay, while his fallen companions were buried with respect. With the destruction of Cherry Valley all hostile movements ceased in Tryon county, and were not resumed until the following spring, when an expedition was sent against the Onondagas by General Clinton. Frequent messages had been sent by the Oneidas during the winter, all reporting that Brant and his Tory colleagues were preparing for some decisive blow. The Onondagas, in the mean while, were making peaceful professions, expressing a desire to remain neutral, while they were in league and in secret correspondence with the leaders in the hostile camp at Niagara. Policy, and even the necessity born of the law of self-preservation, seemed to demand the infliction of summary and severe chastisement upon the savages who menaced and desolated the Tryon county settlements. Early in the winter General Schuyler had assured Congress that, unless something of the kind was speedily done, Schenectady must soon become the boundary of settlement in that direction. The arrangement of an expedition against the Indians was intrusted to General Clinton. Armis. In April he dispatched a portion of the regiments of Colonels Gansevoort and Van 1779. Schaick, under the latter officer, against the Onondagas. The party consisted of five hundred and fifty-eight strong men. Van Schaick was instructed to burn their castle and villages in the Onondaga Valley, destroy all their cattle and other effects, and make as many prisoners as possible. He was further instructed to treat the women that might fall into his hands with all the respect due to chastity. The expedition went down Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, and thence up the Oswego River to the point on Onondaga Lake where Salina now is. A thick fog concealed their movements, and they had approached to within four or five miles of the valley before they were discovered. As soon as the first village was attacked, the alarm spread to the others. The people fled to the forests, leaving every thing, even their arms, behind them. Three villages, consisting of about fifty houses, were destroyed; twelve Indians were killed, and thirty-three were made prisoners. A large quantity of
never known to take advantage of a conquered soldier. I have mentioned the challenge which Captain M“Kean sent to Brant. After the affair at Cherry Valley, he inquired of one of the prisoners for Captain M'Kean, who, with his family, had left the settlement. “He sent me a challenge,” said Brant. “I came to accept it. He is a fine soldier thus to retreat.” It was replied, “Captain M'Kean would not turn his back upon an enemy when there was any probability of success.” “I know it,” replied Brant. “He is a brave man, and I would have given more to take him than any other man in Cherry Valley; but I would not have hurt a hair of his head.” Dr. Timothy Dwight relates that Walter Butler ordered a woman and child to be slain, in bed, at Cherry Valley, when Brant interposed, saying, “What! kill a woman and child That child is not an enemy to the king nor a friend to Congress. Long before he will be big enough to do any mischief, the dispute will be settled.” When, in 1780, Sir John Johnson and Brant led a desolating army through the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys, Brant's humanity was again displayed. On their way to Fort Hunter an infant was carried off. The frantic mother followed them as far as the fort, but could get no tidings of her child. On the morning after the departure of the invaders, and while General Van Rensselaer's officers were at breakfast, a young Indian came bounding into the room, bearing the infant in his arms and a letter from Captain Brant, addressed to “the commander of the rebel army.” The letter was as follows: “Sir—I send you, by one of my runners, the child which he will deliver, that you may know that, whatever others may do, I do not make war upon women and children. I am sorry to say that I have those engaged with me who are more savage than the savages themselves.” He named the Butlers and others of the Tory leaders This incident was related to Mr. Stone by the late General Morgan Lewis.
Alarm of the Oneidas. Expedition against Oswegatchie. Attack on Cobelskill. Scalping Parties.
provisions, consisting chiefly of beans and corn, was consumed. The council-house, or cas. tle, was not burned, but the swivel in it was spiked. All the horses and cattle in the vicinity were slaughtered; and, when the work of destruction was ended, the expedition returned to Fort Schuyler, after an absence of only six days, and without the loss of a man. This expedition, cruel and of doubtful policy, alarmed the neutral Oneidas." They were faithful to the Americans, yet, having intermarried freely with the Onondagas, their relations had been slain or impoverished, and this distressed them. They sent a deputation to Fort Schuyler to inquire into the matter. Colonel Van Schaick pacified, if he did not satisfy, them, and they returned to their people. But the ire of the Onondagas was fiercely kindled, not only on account of the destruction of their property, but because of the extinguishment of their council fire. Three hundred braves were immediately sent upon the war-path, charged with the vengeance of the nation. Guided by a Tory, they came down fiercely upon the settlement at Cobelskill,” murdering, plundering, and burning. The militia turned out to repulse them, but, being led into an ambuscade, a number of them were killed. They fought desperately, and while the militia was thus contending, and beating back the savages, the people fled in safety to Schoharie. Seven of the militia took post in a strong house, which the savages set fire to, and these brave young men all perished in the flames. The whole settlement was then plundered and burned. The patriots lost twenty-two killed, and fortytwo who were made prisoners. While this expedition was in progress, scalping parties appeared at the different points in the lower section of the Mohawk, and the settlements were menaced with the fate of Cherry Valley. On the south side of the Mohawk a party fell upon the Canajoharie settlement, took three prisoners, captured some horses, and drove the people to Fort Plain. On the same day another party attacked a small settlement at Stone Arabia,” burned some April is, houses, and killed several people. A party of Senecas appeared at Schoharie on the * same day, drove the people to the fort, plundered the houses, and carried away two men prisoners. These simultaneous attacks were part of a plan for cutting off the settlement in detail. The Indians on the south of the Mohawk were from the Seneca country, and those on the north from Canada, both, doubtless, the advanced parties of larger forces. The settlements were thoroughly alarmed. The Palatine' Committee wrote immediately to General Clinton, at Albany, for succor. That efficient officer afforded immediate aid, and, by the timely check thus given to the invaders, the settlers of the valley were prevented from being driven into Schenectady." Other settlements near the Delaware and on the frontiers of Ulster county were visited by the Indians in May and the early part of June; and in July the battle of Minisink occurred, the particulars of which will be hereafter re. July 30 lated. 1779. In the spring of this year it was determined to send a formidable force into the Indian country of Western New York, for the purpose of chastising the savages and their Tory allies so thoroughly that the settlements upon the Mohawk and the upper branches of the Susquehanna might enjoy a season of repose. The tribes of the Six Nations were then populous. They had many villages, vast corn-fields, and fruitful orchards and gardens in the
* At the time of this expedition there were about forty Oneida warriors at Fort Schuyler. These were sent, with a party of regulars, under Lieutenants M'Lellan and Hardenburgh, northward to attack the fort at Oswegatchie. This expedition was unsuccessful in its ostensible object, the garrison having been ap: prised of their approach. It is supposed that the employment of the Oneidas so far away that they could not notify their kinsmen, the Onondagas, of the invasion, was the principal object of this northern move. ment, and in that it was successful. The Oneidas were really friendly to the patriots, but to their credit it was said by General Clinton (who knew them well), in a letter to General Sullivan, “Their attachment to one another is too strong to admit of their being of any service when employed against their fellows.” * Cobelskill was taken from Schoharie. The little village is about ten miles west of the former. * Stone Arabia is about three miles north of the Mohawk, in the rear of Palatine, and thirteen west of Johnstown. • Palatine is on the north side of the Mohawk, opposite Canajoharie, with which it is connected by a bridge. * Campbell's Annals; Stone's Brant.
Preparations to invade the Indian Country. General Sullivan, Commander-in-chief. General James Clinton.
fertile country westward of Otsego Lake. It was supposed that the most effectual method to subdue or weaken them would be to destroy their homes and lay waste their fields, and thus drive them further back into the wilderness toward Lake Erie. Already the Mohawks had been thrust out of the valley of their name, and their families were upon the domains of the Cayugas and Senecas. It was, therefore, determined to make a combined movement upon them of two strong divisions of military, one from Pennsylvania and the other from the north, at a season when their fields and orchards were fully laden with grain and fruits. It was a part of the plan of the expedition to penetrate the country to Niagara, and break up the nest "of vipers there. General Sullivan' was placed in the chief command, and led in person the division that ascended the Susquehanna from Wyoming, while General Clinton" commanded the forces that penetrated the country from the mouth of the Canajoharie. It was arranged to unite the two divisions at Tioga. Clinton's troops, fifteen hundred strong, were mustered at Canajoharie on the 15th of June, and on the 17th he commenced the trans. portation of his bateaux and provisions across the hilly country to Springfield, at the head of Otsego Lake, a distance of more than twenty
John Sullivan was born in Berwick, Maine, on the 17th of February, 1740. His family emigrated to America from Ireland in 1723. He was a farmer in his youth, and, after arriving at maturity, he studied law, and established himself in practice in Durham, New Hampshire. He was chosen a delegate to the first Continental Congress. After retiring from that body, he and John Langdon, the speaker of the Provincial Congress of New Hampshire, commanded a small force which seized Fort William and Mary, at Portsmouth, and carried off all the cannon. He was appointed one of the eight brigadiers when the Continental army was organized in 1775, and early in the following year he was made a major general. He superseded Arnold in the command of the American army in Canada in 1776. When General Green became ill on Long Island, he took command of his division, and was made prisoner at the battle fought there in August, 1776. He was exchanged, and took command of General Charles Lee's division in New Jersey after the capture of that officer. In the autumn of 1777 he was engaged in the battles at the Brandywine and Germantown, and in the winter following he took command of the troops on Rhode Island. He besieged Newport in August, 1778, was unsuccessful, and retreated from the island after a severe battle near the north end. He commanded the expedition against the Indians in 1779, and this was the last of his military career. Having offended some of the members of the Board of War, and believing himself ill treated, he resigned his commission in 1779. He was afterward a member of Congress, and, for three years from 1786, was President of New Hampshire. In 1789 he was appointed district judge, which office he held until his death, which occurred January 23d, 1795.
* James Clinton was born in Ulster county, New York, August 9th, 1736. At the age of twenty (1756) he was captain, under Bradstreet, in the attack on Fort Frontenac. In 1763 he was intrusted with the command of four companies in Ulster and Orange, raised for defense against the inroads of the savages. He, with his brother George (the Governor of New York during the Revolution), early espoused the patriot cause. He was appointed a colonel in 1775, and accompanied Montgomery to Canada. In August, 1776, he was made a brigadier; and he was in command, under Governor Clinton, at Forts Montgomery and Clinton when they fell into the hands of the enemy in 1777. He escaped, and made his way to his residence in safety. Conjointly with Sullivan, he led the expedition against the Indians in 1779. During the remainder of the war he was connected with the Northern Department, having his quarters at Albany. He retired to his estate, near Newburgh, Orange county, New York, after the Revolution, where he died